Friday, 27 May 2016

Safety First

After years of working with seniors, looking for safety issues in the home has become second nature. We often think of safety issues as being outdoors - the weather, the road etc., but seniors need to be aware of risks in the home as well. With declining mobility, vision, and hearing, one needs to be more aware of their environment, both inside the home and outside. Most associate home risks with the bathroom and a need for safety bars, but there is really so much more that one needs to be aware of as well.

Are there loose throw rugs or electrical cords on the floor?
Is there anything flammable in the kitchen and if so, is it safely stored?
Is the person safe to use all kitchen appliances?
Are there working smoke detectors and CO detectors in the home on every floor?
Is the person safe in the bathroom and if not are there properly installed safety bars and non-slip flooring?
Is there adequate lighting inside and outside the home?
Are walkways and stairways clear of any tripping hazards?
Are medications safely stored and labelled?

These are just a few areas that need to be reviewed to ensure a home is safe for a senior with any impairments. There are many extensive checklists for home safety online and I would encourage you to seek them out if you are or you have a senior in your life who is living alone. Additionally, you may also want to have the home/person assessed by an Occupational Therapist who can assess functional needs and determine any necessary equipment required. For those who know that they do need some home renovations to make a home safe, the Ontario government has a program called the Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit where a senior who does home improvements for safety/accessibility can claim up to $10,000 on their tax return and get up to 15% back. For information on this program visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/healthy-homes-renovation-tax-credit


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Friday, 13 May 2016

Sorting Stuff

How do you sort through what can be a lifetime of possessions? I was speaking to a group of seniors recently and this topic came up. One lady in the group said she has been 'downsizing' for years and when it gets to the point that she is ready to move, it won't be difficult because the hard work is done. She said she doesn't get attached to 'things' so  her policy is to get rid of everything she doesn't use. Another woman in the group talked about how she had a plan over the next few months to go through her home and get rid of what she could. While she is not moving in the immediate future, she is aware that the time will come soon enough and when it does, it will be easier to move if she has less  to sort through. Yet another woman in the group talked about her memories being tied to the things she owned and how difficult a task it will be to pare down what she has when she decides to downsize to a smaller home.

This conversation got me thinking about the whole topic of downsizing and sorting possessions. For those who decide to downsize to a smaller home and have the luxury of time to do it, the tasks involved may not be too overwhelming. However, for those who for physical or medical reasons need to relocate to a retirement or long-term care setting in a short time frame, this issue can be far more difficult and emotionally draining for the person and their family.  There are many who have lived in their homes for a lifetime and everything in it is tied to memories of that life. And there is a fear that the memories will disappear with the items. The goal for all involved is to separate the memories from the possessions. So how do you do this and rid yourself of things you don't need or can't take with you?

This is a topic I can write an article several pages long on but, in a nutshell, I think you need to start with the easy things first. Start with the big stuff that you can't take with you - extra furniture, household items, kitchenware etc. You would first need to know what you have room for so it's best if you find a place first and know your space limitations. Of the 'easy' (no attachment items), decide if you want to give them away, sell them or throw them out. If you want to give something to a relative, ask them honestly if they want it - if they don't and it is in good condition, consider selling it along with other items in a garage sale, or an online or print ad. Alternately, There are many agencies that would gladly accept donations of gently used items for those less fortunate. For items that hold special meaning, offer it to family members so you can 'visit' your favourites whenever you want. Share the story behind it with them and take photos that you can keep in an album to take with you. If no one wants items that you think are of value, you can try to sell them through auction houses, estate sales or again, on through an online source.

Lastly, no one should have to do this alone. If you don't have family or friends willing to help, there are many professional downsizers and senior move managers willing and able to assist with this process.